Rebuttal: MLB.com’s Top 10 First Basemen

MLB.com has recently started rolling out it’s list of the top 10 players from each position. They started with starting pitching, to which I had little desire to rebuke. But once it got to the top 10 first basemen, that’s when I thought it was time to put in my two cents.

Here’s my list:

  1. Anthony Rizzo
  2. Yonder Alonso
  3. Jonathan Singleton
  4. Matt Adams
  5. C.J. Cron
  6. Clint Robinson
  7. Neftali Soto
  8. Chris Carter
  9.  Joe Terdoslavich
  10. Alex Dickerson
  11. Daniel Vogelbach

Although I agree with the site’s top three picks, there’s  some discussion about those further down the line. Adams switches places with Cron in this lineup. He’s proven himself against more advanced pitching and has established a proven track record of hitting everywhere he goes. Cron may have a much higher ceiling, but he also has to prove himself out of the the Pioneer League, which should have been a walk in the park for him at 21.

Possibly one of the biggest surprises is that Chris Parmelee is completely off this list. Chris put up better numbers in 2011, but he was also repeating Double-A. Also, although he has a good walk rate, I highly doubt he will hit for average in the majors and he doesn’t hit for much power.

His replacement at #6 may be just as surprising. Clint Robinson doesn’t get enough credit in my eyes. Sure, he’s 26 and doesn’t field well, but a team willing to put up with his defense or has an open DH spot should take a long look at him.

Like Parmelee I doubt Soto’s ability to hit for an average or to take a walk, but there’s no doubting his power. Regardless of the thunder in his stick, I am tempted to move him down near the basement of this list. I just don’t think he’ll hit major league pitching. That could also be said for Carter who hasn’t proven himself in the majors yet, but I still believe that he has the ability to hit well enough to be valuable to a team….especially if he settles in to a single defensive position.

The next two I somewhat liken to each other. Terdoslavich is one year further along than Dickerson at this point and we’ve seen the results out of the switch hitter so far. Although Dickerson disappointed some with his lack of power, check out Joe’s power numbers from his age 21 season. Alex could easily move past Joe this year.

I couldn’t just round out the list at 10 though, Vogelbach intrigued me. He put up some very nice numbers in a limited scope in 2011. Dan could certainly move up past Soto’s spot in this list by the end of the 2012 season. But the numbers are too limited right now to move him higher.

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Top 5 Trades of the 2007 Baseball Winter Meetings

The recent MLB Winter Meetings, combined with the trade that sent Carlos Quentin to the Padres reminded me of the last time that Kenny Williams and Josh Byrnes hooked up in a Quentin trade, the 2007 Winter Meetings. Only one “major” trade took place during the meetings, but the four other trades had impacts of their own down the road.

1. Tigers Trade for Miguel Cabrera

Tigers Received:
3B Miguel Cabrera
LHP Dontrelle Willis

Marlins Received:
OF Cameron Maybin
LHP Andrew Miller
C Mike Rabelo
RHP Eulogio De La Cruz
RHP Burke Badenhop
RHP Dallas Trahern

This was obviously the deal of the Winter Meetings. Cabrera has been an offensive powerhouse for the Tigers and has been mentioned in the AL MVP vote about every season he’s been there. Willis is another story, he fell apart after moving to Detroit and was never the dominant pitcher he once was. Regardless, Dombrowski extended him and paid dearly for it. He found limited success last season, but not with the Tigers.

Maybin struggled in Florida, but a change of scenery in San Diego has helped. The Marlins received to relievers on their end for him. Andrew Miller was ineffective and has since been traded to Boston. Rabelo spent some time as a backup catcher for the Marlins, but never hit enough to hold the position long enough.

Cruz was bounced around in a number of roles and found him self on the Padres and the Brewers after the trade. He did have some success this season in Milwaukee’s pen, though it was a Bey limited sample. Badenhop has been the most useful of the three eighties in this deal, pitching over 50 innings out of the pen the past couple seasons before being traded to the Rays this winter. Trahern never hit his stride and therefore never reached the majors.

This trade was an obvious win for the Tigers, even with Willie’s ineffectiveness and contract as well as Cabrera’s off field issues.
2. White Sox pick up Hard Hittin’ Carlos Quentin

White Sox Received:
OF Carlos Quentin

Diamondbacks Received:
1B Chris Carter

Since Kenny Williams and Josh Byrnes teamed up to trade Carlos Quentin again this winter, reviewing this trade seems appropriate. From a player to player comparison, Kenny Williams obviously won this trade for the White Sox as Quentin has been a productive middle of the order bat for the team since he was traded for. His defense on the other hand….

Carter was D-Back property for 11 days as he was flipped to Oakland as part of a trade for Dan Haren. Although Byrnes didn’t win by value for value, he used Carter’s value at the time as a piece to land Haren, Carter’s value has since dropped. Chris has since had some decent seasons in the minors, but hasn’t excelled in the majors. He will have to push past a potential “Four-A” hitter label this season if he wishes to have a Major League career.

 

3. Nationals obtain Clippard

Yankees Received:
RP Jonathan Albaladejo

Nationals Received:
SP Tyler Clippard

The Yankees were looking for a pitcher to fill a middle relief role. Albaladejo was a hard thrower that performed well in an audition with the Nationals in 2007, pitching to a 1.88 ERA and a 0.628 WHIP. But the walks hit him hard in New York and he never posted a WHIP below 1.50 in parts of three seasons with the Yankees. Clippard on the other hand would eventually move into a role that the Yankees would’ve loved for Albaladejo to develop into. He has become the setup man for the back-end of the bullpen and has even closed a few games. Tyler has excelled in relief and had his best season yet in 2011 with a 1.83 ERA, a 0.838 WHIP, 10.6 K/9 and an All Star Game appearance.

 

4. Braves Snatch Infante

Braves Recieved:
IF Omar Infante
LHP Will Ohman

Cubs Recieved:
RHP Jose Ascanio

The Braves filled their short-term needs with this deal. Ohman was a vaible lefty out of the pen in 2008 and saw a career high in innings pitched, along with career lows in BB/9 and HR/9. He left via free agency after the season. Infante had three very good seasons as a utility infielder in Atlanta, including an All Star selection in 2010. He was then used in the Dan Uggla deal after that season.

Ascaino’s 2007 season at Double-A proved to be an abberation and he wasn’t successful  in various trips to the Majors with the Cubs and then the Pirates.

 

5. Nationals pick up Hazardous Dukes

This was a tough one to decide on as the rest of the trades didn’t really help any team much. The Freddy Guzman for Chris Shelton trade was intriguing as I was always interested in Guzman and his speed (90 SB in the minors in 2003). But both players became “Four-A” players during their peak. The Tigers traded Jose Capellan to the Rockies for Denny Bautista. Everyone drooled over Bautista’s strikeouts during his career, but his walks were loathsome. Although he pitched to a 3.32 ERA in Detroit, his 1.526 WHIP didn’t make him a keeper. Finally, it was settled that the Elijah Dukes to the Nationals trade had the biggest impact, in more ways than one.

Nationals Received:
OF Elijah Dukes

Rays Received:
LHP Glenn Gibson

Dukes was known for his hot head as much as his potential talent. The Nationals gave him his best chance in the Majors and he hit a respectable .256/.359/.430 in two seasons, including an .864 OPS in 2008. He didn’t hit that well in his second season there and spent plenty of time in the minors. Dukes hasn’t been back to the Majors since.

Gibson fell apart after moving to the Rays. He displayed a very nice 1.069 WHIP in Low-A for Nationals system before being shipped out, but a 1.894 for the Rays the next year. He never returned to the success he had in 2007.

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TBO on Rain Delay

For those of you who have noticed, The Baseball Opinion has been on a bit of a rain delay.  I’ve been working hard to get my book finished up and have been sidelined by real-life activities as well.

There should be new content coming soon, including some opinions that may spark up some debate.  Hope you stick around, keep TBO in your RSS feed readers and keep an eye peeled for new posts.

I do want to send out a “congrats” to Chris Carter (the Athletics version) for his first major league hit.  Hopefully there’s plenty more to come as he climbs out of that 0-33 slump that started his major league career.

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Over Spilled Milk: Mark Mulder to the Cardinals

Over Spilled Milk is a feature where we will look back on previous drafts and trades to see how well the teams involved fared.  Essentially, we will rehash issues like the Scott Kazmir trade to the Devil Rays that are still making Mets fans ‘cry over spilled milk’.

Recently, pitcher Mark Mulder announced his retirement from baseball.  Telling Jeff Fletcher of AOL FanHouse that he has decided to devote himself to becoming a better golfer, a pretty nice change in focus for the 32-year-old.  He should be able to afford it with his approximate $33 million in career earnings.  But his retirement announcement reminded me of the trade in 2004 that showcased him as the centerpiece.

The break up of Oakland’s Big 3 was one of the major story lines of the 2004-2005 off-season.  The Oakland A’s sent Tim Hudson to the Atlanta Braves and Mark Mulder to the St. Louis Cardinals, leaving Barry Zito in Oakland until he left via free agency. 

In Mark Mulder the Cardinals received a pitcher that had won 81 games over five seasons.  With Woody Williams leaving for free agency, Mulder was seen as an obvious improvement and further deepened an already good rotation.  His first season as a Cardinal, Mulder won 16 games and helped propel the team to a 100-win season and a playoff berth.  But then Mulder’s injuries kicked in and after 17 starts in 2006 he had a 7.14 ERA.  He would attempt to make come backs in 2007 and 2008, but they didn’t go well and injuries flared up again. 

Eventually the Cardinals gave up on the reclamation project and let him go.  The Cardinals invested $25, 300,000 in him for 22 wins and 311 innings of 5.04 ERA ball.

Oakland GM Billy Beane snatched up three prospects as part of the deal.  Pitchers Dan Haren and Kiko Calero, and first baseman Daric Barton.  Haren was the top prospect in a mediocre Cardinals farm system, but that doesn’t mean that he wasn’t good.  After the trade, Haren would quickly emerge as one of the A’s top pitchers, winning 43 games in three years.  But as Haren started to get expensive, Beane and the A’s realized they couldn’t keep him.  Billy traded him with Connor Robertson to Diamondbacks for Brett Anderson, Dana Eveland, Greg Smith, Aaron Cunningham, Carlos Gonzalez and Chris Carter.  A pretty nice haul would you look back on it.

Kiko Calero has had a pretty decent career as a middle-reliever for a few different clubs.  During his major league career, Calero has a 14-12 record with a 3.24 ERA in 302.2 innings.  Shoulder issues have sidelined him, but the Dodgers have recently signed him to a minor league contract.   

Daric Barton was a notable prospect from 2005 to 2008 as his named graced Baseball America’s top prospect lists for the team he played for and the majors as a whole.  But he hasn’t impressed much in the majors.  Although he’s adjusting well, his power statistics are far from what you expect from a first baseman.

It’s pretty clear that Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s won this trade.  As stated earlier, the Cardinals spent over $25 million on Mulder with only 22 wins to show for it.  As for Beane, he received 42 wins from Haren, as well as Brett Anderson, Dana Eveland, Greg Smith, Carlos Gonzalez, Chris Carter and Aaron Cunningham.  Anderson is emerging an ace for the staff, when healthy.  Greg Smith and Carlos Gonzalez helped the team get Matt Holliday, then Brett Wallace, and finally Michael Taylor.  Although both Taylor and Carter are struggling at Triple-A this season, they both still have plenty of potential.  Cunningham was involved in a trade package that netted the team’s current third baseman, Kevin Kouzmanoff, and infielder Eric Sogard.  The benefits of the Haren trade just keep coming.

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MiLB Top Players in each League

Topps and MiLB released their list of the top players in each league of the minor leagues for the 2009 season.  Here is their list:

LG Player TM Avg. HR RBI
IL Shelley Duncan SWB .277 30 99
PCL Randy Ruiz LAS .320 25 106
EL Carlos Santana AKR .290 23 97
SL Desmond Jennings MTG .316 8 45
TL Chris Carter MID .337 24 101
CAL Alex Liddi HD .345 23 104
CAR Brandon Waring FRE .273 26 90
FSL Austin Romine TAM .276 13 72
MWL Dee Gordon GL .301 3 35
SAL Jordan Pacheco ASH .322 13 79
NYP Alexander Colome HV 7-4 1.66  
NWL Drew Biery SK .326 6 48
APP Riaan Spanjer-Furstenburg DAN .359 8 53
PIO Brian Cavazos-Galvez OGD .322 18 63
AZL Cody Decker PAD .354 15 63
GCL Eury Perez WAS .381 3 24

Personally, I was rooting for Columbus Clippers’ left-fielder Jordan Brown, as I stated in an earlier post.  But Duncan still had an impressive season, a you can’t argue with a .916 OPS.  It’s doubtful that Duncan will ever be able to make enough contact to be a regular major league player, but at one point I probably thought that about Garrett Jones.

Catcher Carlos Santana, speedster outfielder Desmond Jennings, and slugging corner infielder Chris Carter are popular names that could see time in the majors next season.

Randy Ruiz is a journeyman 1B/DH that had some success in Toronto late in the season.  Marc Hulet of FanGraphs wrote an article back in August about Ruiz, noting that Ruiz now has a career minor league triple-slash line of .304/.378/.530 over 11 years.

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Trade Bait: D’Backs get Haren

The first staff ace got traded today as the A’s GM Billy Beane trade Dan Haren to the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Beane took Brett Anderson, Aaron Cunningham, Dana Eveland, Greg Smith, Chris Carter, and Carlos Gonzalez in return for Haren and Connor Robertson.

Brett Anderson is a control artist lefty that showed well in his first season in the D’Backs system last season.  He ended up with a 3.07 ERA between two levels, while striking out 125 and giving up only 21 walks in 120.1 innnings.

Aaron Cunningham is an outfielder that rose through three levels last season, putting up a .885 OPS along the way.  But he doesn’t have the projectable power or speed to seem to be a regular starter in the future.

Dana Eveland is another lefty starter.  He rode the bench for most of the season due to an injury, but showed enough promise for Arizona to trade for him last off-season.  He should move right into the A’s rotation.  He’ll take his lumps, but should develop into a decent innings eater.

Greg Smith is yet another lefty.  He spent half the season in Double-A before moving up to Triple-A.  Although he doesn’t have dominant stuff, he hasn’t had an ERA over 4.00 since his stint in the Pioneer rookie level league.  He should be nearly ready for the majors and could be moving up to the Oakland staff by midseason and will probably be a cheap lefty for the pen.

Chris Carter was acquired from the White Sox earlier in the off-season.  He has good power potential, but he’s an all-or-nothing type of hitter and has defensive problems.  He’s better suited for the American League as a DH.  If he pans out, he should replace Jack Cust in time as Cust gets too expensive.

But Carlos Gonzalez is the true jewel of the trade.  He’s a good outfielder with great power potential.  But Carlos also needs to improve his plate discipline drastically to become the star that scouts think he will be.

Connor Robertson is a reliever who struggled some at Triple-A last season, but prior to 2007 his ERA had only rose above 3.00 once (a 5 inning stint in Low-A ball).  He also usually carries a pretty good strikeout rate.

What’s up with all the trades of marquee talent for multiple, much less talented players?  You hear all these rumors of trades including top-end talent like Clay Buchholz, Homer Bailey, Brandon Wood, or Clayton Kershaw.  But trades for players like Dan Haren, Jose Valverde, Miguel Tejada and Miguel Cabrera may include one player with good potential, but they are packed with many players with mediocre upside.

Then again Billy Beane has proven us wrong in the past with his trades.  He could have this team contending again in a year or two.  But he won’t have the true ace that the team will need.

 

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Trade Bait: Quentin for Carter

The Chicago White Sox bolstered their outfield for 2007 as they added former star prospect Carlos Quentin from the Arizona Diamondbacks.  In return, the D-backs get first baseman Chris Carter.

Quentin shot through the Arizona minor league system in 2004 and 2005, garnishing high prospect status along the way.  But injuries have prevented him from securing the right-field spot and now uber-prospect Justin Upton owns the position.  With no spot open in the outfield, Quentin was labeled as trade bait and White Sox GM Kenny Williams latched onto him.  Although right now it looks as if he will battle Josh Fields and Ryan Sweeney for playing time in left field, he will likely end up playing there full time.  It is now more likely that Williams will trade or (gasp) non-tender third baseman Joe Crede, giving the position to Josh Fields.  Also, Sweeney hasn’t lived up to the power potential that scouts initially said he would have.

The Diamondbacks, on the other hand, could not go a year without having a player named Chris Carter in the minor league system.  This summer they traded another first base prospect by the name of Chris Carter to the Washington Nationals for pitcher Emiliano Fruto.   Carter ended up with the Boston Red Sox in a trade that sent Willy Mo Pena to the Nationals.

This Carter is from the same mold as he is a power-hitting first baseman with poor defense.  But he is right-handed, whereas the other was left-handed.  Chris is at least a couple years from pushing Conor Jackson from his spot, but promises more power than Jackson when he gets to the majors.

If Quentin is fully recovered from his injuries, I can see this trade benefiting the White Sox the most as Quentin is a better overall player and Williams seems to improved the youth of his lineup.  The other power-hitters in this lineup are getting older.  Jermaine Dye (33), Paul Konerko (31), and Jim Thome (37) will all be starting to show signs of decline sometime soon with only Fields and Quentin poised to provide the additional power needed as there is little hope in the minor league system, outside of possibly John Shelby.

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Trade Bait: Bowden gets his man…Again

The Boston Red Sox have been rumored to be getting rid of Wily Mo Pena for some time now.  Their signing of Bobby Kielty sealed Pena’s fate with the team.  This past week he was finally traded to the Washington Nationals in a three-team trade.  Jim Bowden finally got his man….again.

Wily Mo originally came to the majors with the Reds organization after visiting a couple other organizations while in the minors.  Bowden has always been big on hitters and Wily Mo made him salivate every time he saw him.  Early on, Wily had been compared to Sammy Sosa in his prime and Bowden could see him being at the heart of his Reds lineup for a decade or more.  But Bowden’s time with the Reds fell short as he never acquired enough pitching to make the team competitive.  Now with the Nationals, Bowden set out to get Pena whichever way he could.

After presumably long conversations that almost always have to happen when considering a three-way trade.  The Red Sox settled on getting the Arizona Diamondbacks prospect Chris Carter in exchange for Pena.  Bowden would then send the pitcher acquired in the Jose Vidro deal, Emiliano Fruto, to Arizona.  Pena was immediately inserted into the Nationals’ lineup and started paying dividends immediately.  Although he may be platooned some, Wily Mo Pena should be at the heart of the Nationals’ lineup for the next few years.  He has 40+ home run power, but the Nationals will have to live with his lofty strikeout rates and a batting average that will probably hover around .250-.270.

With talk hovering around the Red Sox that the team will not resign Mike Lowell in the off-season, the trade for Chris Carter is interesting.  The Red Sox’ current first baseman, Kevin Youkilis, came up playing at the hot corner and could move over to the spot if Lowell were to move on.  The Red Sox could then let Chris Carter play the position vacated by Youkilis.  The problem with that line of thought is that Chris Carter is a painfully bad defensive first baseman.  He can sure hit though, Carter’s line this season has him hitting .324 with a .904 OPS with 18 home runs and 39 doubles.

Fruto has always had potential.  The right-hander has a low-90s fastball, a plus curveball, and a plus changeup.  But he has a severe problem with control (59 walks in 87 innings) and has problems with keeping his composure on the mound.  If the Diamondbacks can rework Fruto, he could be a useful reliever down the road.

In the end, it looks as if the Nationals will get the biggest immediate boost out of this trade as their anemic offense will improve with Pena’s bat in the lineup.  If the Red Sox can somehow improve Carter’s defense enough that he can be a viable first baseman, the Red Sox may come out better in the end.  Although Emiliano Fruto has a good arm, it is doubtful that he will amount to much in the majors, making this trade somewhat of a bust for the D-backs.

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